Column: 2016 election should spark interest, concern about American politics

Both our university and our nation have been facing tough issues, and as students and citizens, these issues are relevant to us.

The American political sphere never stops spinning, and within less than a month of 2016 beginning, it has already turned out a great deal of drama.

So far, there have been several Republican and Democrat primary debates, a controversy regarding Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s citizenship, four Americans freed from Iranian captivity, President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address and an endorsement of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump by the nonsensical but nonetheless popular Sarah Palin.

The 2016 presidential election is over 10 months away, and it’s already making me nervous.

About five months ago, I arrived on MU’s campus with little to no interest in anything political. However, after last semester’s protests, administrative upheaval, First Amendment controversy and chaotic MSA election, I realized that I need to care about politics for my own good. We all do. It’s difficult to believe otherwise when you consider our country.

We live in a country in which women still do not receive wages equal to men. We live in a country in which numerous mass shootings over several years still haven’t led to stricter gun laws. We live in a country in which people stereotype Muslims as terrorists but are much more hesitant to use the term when white so-called Christians, such as Planned Parenthood shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear, commit acts of terror. We live in a country in which people who questioned the citizenship of an American-born black president do not question that of a Canadian-born white presidential candidate, even though he only renounced his Canadian citizenship a year and a half ago. We live in a country in which a billionaire businessman with no political background can decide to run for president and can continue to gain in the polls even as he spews hateful and untrue things.

Troubles like these aren’t just a national phenomenon, either. Look at our school.

We attend a university in which a hunger strike and the multiple instances of discrimination that caused it weren’t widely known to the American public until our football team went on strike, putting money and entertainment on the line. We attend a university in which it took those two strikes for the administration to realize it wasn’t taking the discrimination seriously enough. We attend a university in which the student body elected a white MSA president with a history of questionable Twitter use and a Title IX investigation behind him, soon after calling for the resignation of a black MSA president who, in the midst of chaos and confusion, helped spread a false rumor about the Ku Klux Klan on campus.

I might be an opinion columnist, but these lists aren’t opinions. They are facts, and I love MU enough to point out what’s wrong with it. Here’s one more item on that list: only 20.3 percent of undergraduates voted in the 2015 MSA election, and only 28.3 percent voted for or against the library fee. These numbers don’t bode well for future elections at MU and beyond.

In less than two months, the Missouri primaries will be upon us, and most MU students, including me, will be able to vote for the first time in a presidential election. Some people might still be indifferent to politics, as I once was. But even those who do care should keep this at the front of their minds: Whoever is elected president in November will still be president when the current MU student body has graduated college and entered the job market. If that fact doesn’t chill you more than mid-Missouri’s recent weather, I don’t know what does.

I also don’t know everything about politics, having only a semester’s worth of interest behind me. But I’m willing to learn about and discuss them, especially with 2016 shaping up to be a historical, dramatic and possibly quite messy election year.

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